The Elvis Spectacular - Ballyearl, Newtownabbey, 25th June
FIRST of all, I have a confession to make - until now I’ve never really been fantastically ‘into’ Elvis. Whilst I’ve always had a passing interest in the man and his music, when I was younger I was into punk, oi and heavy metal. Bands like the Sex Pistols, Skrewdriver and Motorhead formed the backbone of my musical interests. However, since I’ve turned 21 (which wasn’t yesterday!) I’ve found that my musical tastes have both widened and mellowed.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to catch the Elvis Spectacular held in the Clarion Hotel at Carrickfergus. This featured Jim Brown as The King, the TCB Band and the Sweet Sensations (plus a support act and DJ). I was totally blown away by the experience. Jim Brown had the Elvis ‘sound’ off to a tee. The Carrick gig attracted over 300 Elvis fans – and I was interested in how the Elvis Spectacular would translate in the smaller, more intimate setting of the Ballyearl Courtyard Theatre in Newtownabbey.
The evening started with a couple of songs from the TCB Band and Diane, Kelly and Sam who make up the Sweet Sensations. They performed a very tight and explosive version of All of me loves all of you. This was originally a hit for the Bay City Rollers. Diane – from the Sweet Sensations – then launched into the Tina Turner classic, River Deep Mountain High. Diane’s powerful delivery soon got the crowd clapping along.
Jim Brown – The King – then appeared as the ‘young Elvis’ in a gold lame jacket suit. He belted out That’s Alright Moma) and then went seamlessly into Blue Moon of Kentucky. He then launched in Heartbreak Hotel - and pulled off some classic Elvis moves that would put the rest of us in A&E at Whiteabbey Hospital!
By the time he launched into Don’t Be Cruel, the crowd at Ballyearl were really moving. Indeed the seats were starting to bounce by the time he blasted into Jailhouse Rock. These tracks were then followed by a perfect rendition of Teddy Bear and – as a tribute to the late Freddie Mercury - A Crazy Thing Called Love.
A slight technical hitch caused the keyboards to start making a crackling noise – but The King laughed it off: “it sounds like fireworks going off on the 11th night!” As the sound technicians sorted out the problem, he kept up with a stream of jokes and some great banter. At one point The King asked (in a broad Belfast accent) for someone to put 50p into the meter!
I really admired the way the track listing was altered to take account of the problem with the keyboards. The place was soon rocking again with It’s Now or Never, and a powerful rendition of the Chuck Berry classic, Johnny b Goode.
The keyboards were now up and running – and it was full steam ahead into One Night With You and Blue Suede Shoes.
The interval was unusually eventful – vandals had smashed a fire alarm, which meant that the audience had started to evacuate the building!
Nevertheless, the second part of the show soon swung into action. There was a collective gasp of awe as the curtains opened – all of the TCB Band were dressed in gleaming white jumpsuits. This heralded the ‘Las Vegas’ half of the Elvis Spectacular.
ZZ Rider was followed by Burning Love (I’m not too sure if this was on the original set-list but it went down well after he fire alarm incident!). The King then slowed things down a bit “as I’m 71 years old!” with a fantastic version of You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. I’ve heard a couple of versions of this Righteous Brother classic, but none as powerful as this one.
Later on, My Way and the Wonder of You had the crowd swaying. We were then treated to a fantastic medley of about a dozen Elvis classics like Hound Dog, Teddy Bear and Don’t Be Cruel. These were all delivered without a pause and complete with Elvis ‘moves’.
I didn’t think this could be bettered – but I was wrong. The encore included Suspicious Minds, American Trilogy – which incorporates the fantastic Dixie – and I Cant Help Falling in Love with You.
The gig ended with a well deserved standing ovation for Jim Brown, the TCB Band and the Sweet Sensations. The audience left on a real high and were still buzzing for days afterwards. I’d highly recommend this Elvis Spectacular to anyone – even if they’re not a real die-hard Elvis fan. One can only admire the hard work and sheer professionalism of all involved. Keep an eye out for the next gig – you’ll not be disappointed with what you see and hear.
- John Field